THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN DROP BY AT HEALTH SECURITY EXPRESS EVENT The South Lawn
11:10 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans, Congress has to decide whether it's going to listen to the insurance companies, or to Jan Cox's last wish. (Applause.)
We all know what the problem is here. You've just ridden a bus across the country, seeing real people who are just working hard, making the best they can of their lives, wanting a decent break. Those of you who have had these kinds of personal experiences that Daniel and Carolyn and John talked about, can't figure out why we spend more than anybody else on health care, cover fewer people than any other country, and get poorer health results.
It is because organized, intense, discreet minority interests are doing very well on a system that costs more than any other country's and covers fewer people. And every time you try to change it, they say, well, the world will come to an end. (Laughter.)
Well, like Hillary said, we ran for this job -- along with Vice President and Mrs. Gore -- because maybe we could be the home office of the "American Association of Ordinary Citizens." (Applause.) That's what we wanted to do. And every time we try to make a change, that's what they said.
We showed up here -- the deficit was going up and the economy was going down. And I put together a plan, and I urged the people on the other side to work with me; and they said, no, if we vote for this, the sky will fall, the economy will collapse, and so we'll all vote against it and call it a big tax increase.
But the truth is, the plan cut spending, raised taxes on the richest 1.5 percent of Americans, gave 15 million working people a tax cut. Thanks to the Secretary of Education, gave 20 million Americans an opportunity to refinance their college loans at a lower interest rate and, low and behold, it produced a drop in unemployment -- 3.8 million new jobs and the sky didn't fall. Now, the deficit's going down and the economy's coming up. But it's hard to overcome these organized, intense interests.
We had a different sort of fight over the big trade battle last year over at NAFTA. They said, if you do this, the economy will collapse. But low and behold, the Congress, this time with a bipartisan effort, passed NAFTA and we're exporting five times as many cars to Mexico as we were last year. They're our biggest, most growing market.
Change is hard up here because, even though most members of Congress were once just like you, when they get up here, they're a long way from home and they know that you and the President are presented to the folks back home partly through the rhetoric and the money spent by organized, intense minority interest.
And somehow, some way, this fight has got to be about Daniel Lumley and Carolyn Mosely and John and Jan Cox. That's what it's got to be about. (Applause.) It's got to be about my friend, Justin Dart, sitting back there and all the Americans with disabilities who could be in the work force, making money, paying taxes, contributing to our future if they could just get health insurance while they're in the work force. (Applause.)
All the nurses who hired on to help people get well, and instead spend all their time calling insurance companies to try to figure out if this or that procedure can be done by the doctor in the first place. Goodness only knows how many people we employ in this country that would be working more productively in any other country. We have to put hundreds of thousands of people to work every day to figure out who's not covered, or what's not covered in an insurance policy. There's not anybody else in the world spending their time and spinning their wheels, putting people to work, asking them to spend their entire working life reading the fine print of insurance policies to see what is not covered. Can you imagine a more unsatisfying thing to do with your life? (Applause.)
Lee Brown, our drug policy leader -- do you know why he's here today? Because if we could pass health insurance for all Americans, it would include drug treatment for all Americans. (Applause.) Now, he's a policeman; he spent all of his life trying to lower crime and fight criminals, be tough on law and order. But he learned as a police officer that there are a lot of people in trouble with drug and alcohol abuse and they need treatment. And we'd save billions and billions of dollars.
And it's not like we don't know what to do. Twenty years ago, Hawaii said, everybody here is going to get insurance; we're going to have employers and employees cover their health insurance. And if you've never been to Hawaii -- I hope you get to go someday; it's a wonderful place -- but everything there is more expensive than any place else, because it's way out on an island somewhere -- everything except health care, where the premiums for small business are 30 percent below the national average because everybody pays and no one runs away, and everybody is covered. (Applause.)
And you ought to be taken care of, whether you're a young man riding a motorcycle in the prime of your life, or a young woman giving yourself to nursing, or a man following a religious mission to work at a Christian radio station, or any other thing. It just ought to be that way.
We have a consensus in this country on universal health care. What we do not have is a consensus among people elected to represent the American people on making the tough decisions necessary to get universal health care. (Applause.)
There are lots of things like that in life. A bunch of us, including me, would like to be thinner, but we don't diet. (Laughter.) A lot of people would like to be stronger, but they don't lift weights.
In the end, it comes down when you've got something everybody wants to do but is not easy to do, the people that hired on have to make the decisions. And the members of the United States Congress hired on, just like I did. We didn't say, vote for me, in a representative form of government, and I will make all the necessary decisions to solve the problems of the country except those that are difficult, controversial, and make people mad. (Applause.)
That was not the deal. And you need to hang around this town, and you need to tell your stories. Because the questions that I get asked are, well, what about this detail or that bill, or who is up or who is down. I say I have answered my question. My question is, am I for you or not? Answer? Yes. (Applause.)
And secondly, second question, did I offer a plan to solve your problem. The answer, yes. (Applause.) Third question, was I willing to meet people who had different ideas or better ideas more than halfway? The answer is yes. (Applause.)
These bills provide for longer phase-in, they give less orders, fewer orders and they give more options to smaller business. They give a better financial break to small business. They are less bureaucratic. We have listened to the American people and Congress has presented bills to do that.
They've bent over backwards to recognize that the American people want options, and they don't like to be told to do anything. I don't blame them. Nobody likes that. But the conservative thing to do is to ask everybody to carry as much of their own load as they can and then for the rest of us to help.
Those who are opposed to universal coverage say, we've got a whole class of people we're not going to ask to carry any load at all, and we'll ask everybody who's already doing their part to do even more. I think we have the conservative position, my fellow Americans, the responsible position. Everybody should do what they can, and then we'll help those who need more. (Applause.)
I just want to ask you to remember this: Make this debate about John and Jan Cox, about the story Carolyn Mosely told, about the dreams of the future -- teaching our children -- that Daniel Lumley has, and about the personal stories that are here in this audience and all across America. Don't let it become part of some rhetoric, hot air, process, conflict, interest group deal, and say a simple word. We have moved, we have reached out to people of different views and different parties. This is not a partisan issue. I don't have any earthly idea what political party these three people are in, or who they voted for President, and I do not care; I want them to have health care. (Applause.)
You make the debate about them, and remind the Congress that, just like the President, they signed on to represent ordinary Americans, to make the tough decisions and not to walk away. And this is a decision America has walked away from for 60 years. President Truman, three times asked the American people to get the Congress to solve this problem and the Congress said no. President Nixon, 23 years ago, asked the Congress to require employers and employees to split the difference and cover, with private health insurance, all Americans.
Now, it's been long enough, folks. I know we're supposed to deliberate up here -- (laughter) -- but we have now deliberated through three generations. (Laughter and applause.)
AUDIENCE: Pass it now! Pass it now!
THE PRESIDENT: Pass it now for them and for you. God bless you all. (Applause.)
END11:20 A.M. EDT